Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bright Eyes, and Dealing With Dread

Dawn continues to improve - this morning she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - eagerly eating breakfast and marching with energy to turnout (not draggy and dull like she's been) and then galloping off when I let her go.  And her skin is improving in areas - pictures later in this post.

Yesterday, although it was a beautiful day, I didn't ride, although I did take care of Dawn and give all three horses a quick grooming.  It was very windy and cool, and the horses were frisky, and that was the excuse I had for not hopping on, then on Sunday there was Dawn's vet visit, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday it was too hot . . . you get the idea.  A horse and carriage came by (who knows what that was about?), and all the horses started bolting around their paddocks, and I was mentally pretty spooky too.  I almost forced myself to saddle up Pie and get on, and I might have felt better if I did, but then I said to myself, wait a minute.  All three of my horses have their basic training pretty much down, and some days off aren't going to hurt them - and they're all on all-day turnout so they're not going to be building up excess energy.  I spent a good part of my life being forced, or forcing myself, to do lots of things I didn't want to do, was scared to do or wasn't well-suited to do.  Sometimes that was necessary or a good idea - I'm fairly cautious and shy by disposition (which often results in my appearing strong or even aggressive on the outside - that's the forcing at work).  But sometimes it was just forcing.  Grimly saddling up and riding isn't my idea of fun.  I want my riding to be a joy, not just a duty - although I do feel that I have a duty to my horses to keep them working and in shape and learning.

I decided yesterday that since I was dreading riding so much, I wouldn't be able to provide my horse with confident leadership and so riding was a bad idea.  I'm not sure what I'm dreading - I'm a pretty competent rider (but as we know even competent riders can come off), and once I'm on and riding I'm almost always able to cope pretty well with what comes up.  It's the free-floated dread that's hard to deal with, and it's true that I'm pretty spooked about riding on the trail - that trail surface looks pretty darned hard - in fact I know it's like concrete.  I just chalked it up to a bad day and left it at that, and tried not to be disappointed in myself - to cut myself some slack.

I think I'll be able to ride today - it's a bit warmer and the wind's not as sharp as yesterday so that'll help.

This morning I spent some time taking pictures of the horses - I haven't done a lot of this lately and really enjoy it.

Drift was telling me that the mares were too far away:

The angle of the sun made his coat gleam - although he's pretty dusty:

I liked how the mares were back-lit and how each one's shadow stood out:

Here's Dawn's neck in close-up - the swelling is pretty much gone and some areas of skin are starting to look more normal - the white glop is medicine:

The pleating of the skin is also much reduced - the worst remaining area is by her shoulder:

But she's pretty darn shiny - except for dirt from rolling:

Pie was his usual handsome self - the next several photos are of him:

Gotta love that butt and full tail:

I liked the way his muscles stood out as he walked:

And his sturdy hind legs:

His mane's deep color stood out, and if you look closely at his shoulder, you'll see "bed marks" - he must have just gotten up from a nap in the grass - he often takes a nap a couple of hours after he's turned out:

Charisma was out sunning in her paddock, and her coat was gleaming too:

I hope everyone has a good day with horses!


  1. Kate--I know that free floating dread feeling. For me it tends to arise around the possible unexpected stuff on the trails--dirtbikes, chainsaws...etc. and my fear for kid's safety. My experience has been that if I give myself permission not to ride when I don't really feel like riding--for whatever reason--that I am able to WANT to ride sooner than if I force myself to ride when I don't feel like it. I hope that made sense. Somehow taking the pressure off myself and letting go of the guilt driven approach allows a freedom and space to develope where I can feel what I'm really wanting to do. Sometimes that means I just sit there and watch the horses or take photos for a day or two. And then all of a sudden I really want to ride again--it feels like a craving. So that's how I deal with it. I give myself complete permission not to ride when it doesn't feel "right".

  2. Laura - thanks, it's good to know I'm not the only one. I've always erred on the side of just forcing myself to do it, but I'm trying to learn to give myself more space and permission to just let things be sometimes and take the pressure off - I'm not very good at that.

  3. I've done the same thing many times. My previous horse was very spooky and if it was windy I just refused to ride. I actually had to leave a barn and trainer once because they forced me to ride in lessons with jumps way too high or go to shows when I felt I wasn't ready. They needed the money and it resulted in a few serious crashes and a loss of confidence on my part and my horses.

    Now I allow myself to not ride if I don't feel like it. Which results in trying to deal with the guilt of doing what I want to do instead of what I think I should be doing. Any sense in that statement? Probably not.

    My thoughts and how I deal with guilt is simply to give yourself permission to have fun with the horses instead of always driving towards some goal. This takes the pressure off of them and us and we just naturally have a better relationship together.

  4. I love your header.

    You say you love taking pictures of your horses simply hanging out with them. That need not be a default setting when you're not in the mood to ride. Balance is very important in my world. And besides I love looking at the pictures of your horses, your barn set up, and even the lovely green pastures you have. It's not so easy to find green pastures and lush trees where I live.

  5. I am so glad that you wrote this post on the dreads...
    I had to make myself get back on Pantz this weekend. The arena is okay, but the trail is what was giving me the dreads.
    Last year, in August, she dislodged me -from a complete standstill-. I kinda lost my confidence after that with her...it was a drop and rollback kinda move.
    So..all this to say, I got back on her 2 days in a row..new trails to her at my place and though she was lookie-louing..I kept a contact with her and a leg on..seemed to help.
    Yes, and giving oneself a break..always good. it is not worth the anxiety, of kicking yourself. I know, i've kicked myself into high gear so many times for others...I'm relaxing now and accepting the horse I have and myself.

    Be well Kate~Loved seeing you eye on the horse- through the lens again too!!!

  6. My thoughts about that are if you don't feel comfortable, the horse knows and won't feel comfortable either. I think that it is great that you can recognize when you are not feeling "it" and just wait until the time is right. I have a friend who is afraid of riding her horse if all the conditions are not perfect for her, and too many times I have seen her forced to ride him. It usually ends up that he knows she is not comfortable, so he messes with her, making her more uncomfortable and that is not a positive experience for either of them!

    I love the picture of the 3 horses in shadow! Beautiful!

  7. The first cool days of fall I often find are very "exciting" for a horse. Go with your gut instinct, I say you were smart. But you could have done some ground work and "exercised" the minds. Sometimes, though, a complete pasture day is what is needed. :)

  8. Your post really resonated with me, too. I chalk it up to being older and perhaps wiser, but there are times I go out to ride and I feel like my heart is in my throat. I've even had to force myself to "whistle a happy tune" to stop the heebie-jeebies, and hopefully so I won't communicate them to the ponies. Sometimes I give in to the fear and just do some ground work. Other times I push myself a bit.
    I do have to say, however, that your blog has really helped push me a bit! When I read that you've ridden all three horses, it makes me feel like a slacker!
    Thanks for all you do for all of us... and go ahead... take some time to relax so you do enjoy the ride!

  9. I know what you mean by the dread. Sometimes I force myself to get on and ride, and other times I feel, as you did today, that I'm not in the right place mentally, and forcing the issue might make it worse than better. Other times the problem is solved by giving myself "permission" not to necessarily get anything done, but to just piddle around bareback. Sometimes those turn out to be the best rides, because I'm not putting any pressure on either of us, myself or Panama.

  10. I think we all get the dreads, but following your instincts is never a bad idea. One thing that I always remind myself is that my horses have no deadlines and if we don't get to it today, we'll do it tomorrow. It's so easy to guilt-trip myself into things that take away the fun of having horses. I'm glad that you didn't ride and that you took all those photos we can enjoy. You'll ride tomorrow - if you feel like it.

  11. I love your header photo today! The grass looks almost spring-like.

    I hope you got through the "dread zone" and on to happy time grooming or grazing. Sometimes I dread riding if I am low in energy. I feel sluggish and think that I can't possible hoist the saddle up, let alone hoist myself up! If I start slow and just groom or graze, then I get new energy and usually have a great ride. There are days, though, in running and riding, when I just don't feel like it - so I don't. There is nothing worse than forcing. That is a recipe for disaster. Joys in our life are to be just that. Horses are a joy - on the ground beside us, in cross-ties, and on a lead too - not just while we ride.

  12. I understand the whole "dread" thing. I try not to feel guilty about putting something off. There are going to be other days and other opportunities do do whatever you are putting off. :-) My goodness, you have 3 horses that you ride almost every day! You are amazing. A day off is not a bad thing. Lovely pictures.

  13. Your photos are so lovely! You have a really nice group of horses. I love reading about all of their different personalities. I am glad Dawn is on the mend. After reading about her condition through the power of the interenet, I learned quite a bit. I had never heard of that condition before. From what I read, it seems it could be a real bugger to eleiminate. It sounds like with your quick aggresive treatment that you are well on your waiting to eradicating it. It is a really greatting that you are so in tune with those guys. I agree with all of the comments above, if you don't have to ride and your feeling uneasy or even just not in the mood, all those feeling trickle down to the horse good bad or otherwise. So I think by not riding when your having those feelings, it is much better nto to ride for you both in the long run.

  14. So glad Dawn's on the mend! It's really hard to strike that balance between not wanting to ride and wanting to keep yourself and the horse in consistent work. A little extra time won't hurt anyone, though. Like Laura said, you'll want to ride soon enough.

  15. I was talking to a fellow older rider at the barn and we were talking about our modest gains and how the barn owner seems constantly disappointed by our lack of progress. We are progressing, just slowly.

    I said, you know what? I'm having fun right now.

    She smiled and said me too.

    Somedays you climb mount everest, other days you spend weeks in the tent acclimating. It's all part of the climb, right?

    Dread, fatigue, a funny feeling - it's all valid. Just like riding the horse that shows up, sometimes you have to recognize that it goes for the rider too. Cut yourself the break our regularly cut your horses.

    I think I've rambled completely. Good thing I'm not riding today.

  16. Kate, I'm glad Dawn is doing better. That is quite a regimen to treat her condition! I agree with all your visitors when they say it is okay to not force yourself to ride. There are other, non-riding things to do, including just grooming or grazing. Sometimes we just can't help being a bit fretful about something in the back of our minds, and at times like that, it is a good thing to do only what we feel comfortable doing. I love your photos- I need to take my camera to the farm as well.

  17. Kate I think you wrote how a lot of us feel. I have those days and generally once I am on I am fine but you just never know!
    I have a friend who is a successful eventer, very brave and a very good rider. We entered a conversation and asked why I ride horses. Why did I ride when I could feel so scared? I love horses and I ride not to compete, but to enjoy such a magnificent animal, one who on the right day let me in to their world. I also do it for myself, for my inner strength, my inner peace, my own happiness.
    So if one day you don't feel like riding then you know what it is totally fine. Your horses are by no way suffering, as you said they are getting good turn out time with other horses.

  18. Good to hear that Dawn is doing better - I hope that she continues to improve.

    I hear you about the dread thing - I have the same feelings sometimes. Not so much with my old quiet gelding - a really windy stormy day made him like a normal horse, lol. My new mare is a different story - we had high winds the other day and her eyes were so wild that there was no way I was getting on!

  19. Breathe -
    You are absolutely right about having fun with your horses! I am wondering why the barn owner is disappointed? Does she/he have some stake in your progress? Otherwise, continue to have fun!!!

    As with most things in life, if you take your time to do things correctly, as opposed to rushing through, the end results are often better and more fulfilling!

  20. I like to give myself space to not ride, too. I agree it should always be a joy. For whatever reason, there are times we have to have space to do some mental adjustments in our life with horses. I've been mourning the loss of my riding partner, Cowboy and have taken time off to do that. At some point, I will have fully come to peace with this and be able to embrace my new life with Beautiful. I feel like I'm almost there, but it has been a long road with a lot of mixed feelings.

  21. Kate, what you're describing is wisdom.

    Regards from Hawaii.


  22. I'm glad that Dawn's neck is improving and that you were able to just get outside and enjoy taking some nice photos of all the pretty horses.
    I hear ya about the dread. I'm still not able to talk myself into saddling up and riding here alone at home. I see myself doing it and can even plan it, but when I think about it, my tummy gets tied into knots.
    I have a riding lesson over at Jess's tomorrow and then the ACTHA rides on Sat and Sun.


  23. This is all very new to me and I enjoy reading about how even people with more experience are having the same concerns (issues) that I am. Since I don't have the experience I decided after three horses, to take a short cut. After being tossed by my very well behaved QHs and Paint, and a comment by my vet, I decided to find a breed that is better suited to my personality. So, since I am "only" a trail rider I discovered the Rocky Mountain and Kentucky Mountain horses. They are a lot like your description of Pie, practically perfect. Friendly, funny, brave, and if there is a horse that's born solid they're the ones. I like being on the ground around them as much as riding and they have made me enjoy riding so much since I don't spend as much time worrying when I'm out. Sorry for the commercial, but, at my age I'm ready for less stress and more cooperation. Thanks for your site, I learn something every post.

  24. This post really spoke to me, thank you for putting into words what I have thought about often in the last few months. I have been learning to give myself permission to not do things as well, something I am terrible at. It really does make me feel like I have less pressure on myself and I tend to get back to whatever I was dreading much more quickly - and looking forward to it.

  25. Molly - thank you for commenting - I've met one Rocky Mountain Horse and he was great on the trail - and comfortable too!


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